My Week in Books (4/22/19)

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(#partner #freebooks: All books noted by asterisks (***) indicate I received the book for free from the publisher, the author, or another promotional company to review. All opinions are my own.)

{#partner #librofm) This week kicks off Independent Bookstore Day (read more here) – a one-day national party that takes place at indie bookstores across the United States on the last Saturday in April (this year it will be April 27th). To celebrate, Libro.fm wants to thank everyone who supports independent bookstores with five free audiobooks!

If you’re like me and live in a rural area where there isn’t an independent bookstore, Libro.fm allows you to still be able to support your favorite indie bookstore…which makes them my favorite place to buy audiobooks. Libro.fm is the first and only company to make it possible for customers to purchase audiobooks through their local bookstore of choice. This is an easy way to provide ongoing support to your bookstore from the convenience of your mobile device!

To thank everyone who supports independent bookstores, Libro.fm is gifting its members five free audiobooks. All you need is an account – which is free, does not require any credit card information, and does not require any commitment. What do you have to lose?

And just to sweeten the deal a little bit more…get your 5 free audiobooks at https://libro.fm/ibd?rf_code=lfm56658&cmp=IBDLLS and use HAPPIEST to also get 3-for-1 audiobooks when you join as a member! Then on Saturday, April 27th, you’ll also receive an email from Libro.fm with a link to collect your five free audiobooks!

It’s that simple! And it’s a decision you won’t ever regret!

Last Week’s Reads:

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  • *** The Bride Test (The Kiss Quotient, #2) by: Helen Hoang (Berkley) – On Shelves: May 7, 2019
    • I’m truly not a fan of romance, but Hoang creates quirky love stories unlike anyone else. I loved The Kiss Quotient last year, so I was excited to read the second book in the series. I was a little disappointed that this wasn’t a continuation of Stella and Michael’s story; we’re introduced to new characters in this book. This one didn’t hold up as well for me…There are still plenty of blush-worthy moments, but overall this one lacked engagement for me. I didn’t connect with the characters as deeply and I was just super frustrated with their lack of communication. Readers of Hoang’s first book will recognize and appreciate her writing as it is similar and if you’re looking for a quick and light summer read, give this one a try!
  • 🎧 Life Will Be the Death of Me:…And You Too! by: Chelsea Handler (Spiegel & Grau) – Pub Date: April 9, 2019
    • This book was the last thing I expected it to be. While I’ve never read any of Handler’s previous books, I know enough from her tv shows etc, to have made some presumptions about what this book would be about: drinking, joking, and pointless…BUT I WAS WRONG!! It’s so much more than that! Handler veers off from her regular course and gets real, honest, and vulnerable. This book is raw because she tackles grief, difficult family relationships, and her intense hate for the current administration and the direction of our country. She acknowledges her real sense of privilege and examines how to use her voice to initiate change. I was unexpectedly blown away by this book. I listened to it on audiobook and I think that made it come alive in a totally different way than it would have in hard copy. I saw a new side of Handler and have a greater respect for her now.
  • Finding Dorothy by: Elizabeth Letts (Ballantine) – Pub Date: February 12, 2019
    • Finding Dorothy is a true gem of a book you don’t want to miss! This is historical fiction at its finest – a sweet, whimsical, {mostly} happy story that had my heart from the first page. Alternating between 1939 in Hollywood, California and the late 1800s throughout the US’s midwest, this is the story behind the massive book, and eventual movie, hit The Wizard of Oz. I remember growing up and loving the movie {minus the #flyingmonkeys 😳}. It was so fun to go “behind the scenes” to see the inspiration behind that childhood memory. Historical fiction seems to center around WWII a lot of the time, so if you’re looking for a change of pace – and something a little less depressing – give this one a try. It’s truly magical and will give you all the feel-good vibes!
  • Normal People by: Sally Rooney (Hogarth) – Pub Date: April 16, 2019
    • I honestly don’t know what to say about this one. For me, it was a case of #bookstagrammademedoit…which usually works for me. But this one really didn’t. I didn’t love it and I didn’t hate it – I mostly feel very meh about it. Some of my most trusted sources LOVED this one (Sarah’s Book Shelves, Katie from @basicbsguide, Tyler Goodson, Novel Visits, ItsBookTalk, Annie B. Jones), so I’m not sure where the disconnect was for me. Was the writing good? Yes. Did it keep me turning the pages? Yes. Did I care about the characters? Very much so. This book had all the makings of a book I usually fall for – great character development, deep and emotional feelings, coming-of-age, layers upon layers that need to be peeled back in order to see the full picture – so I’m very confused by my ambivalent feelings. But at the end of the day, this book really didn’t make me feel anything – not one way or the other. 🤷🏼‍♀️

I Tried, But Wasn’t Feeling (aka: DNF):

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  • 🎧 White Elephant by: Julie Langsdorf (ECCO) – Pub Date: March 26, 2019
    • I DNF’d this one around the 20%-(ish) mark. I was really into and thought this was going to be a great read for me, but when I came back to it the next day, all I could think was, “Really!??! All this about a tree?” and from that point on, I could not get reengaged. Possibly a downfall of reading it on audio – maybe the hard copy would have kept me engaged – but I just couldn’t get back into it.

Currently Reading/Listening:

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  • Miracle Creek by: Angie Kim (Sarah Chichton Books) – Pub Date: April 16, 2019
    • After reading two books that fell rather flat for me (The Bride Test and Normal People), I was in need of a page-turner. Miracle Creek is all over #bookstagram and now I know why! This courtroom drama is engaging, intense, and brilliantly executed. I cannot believe this is a debut novel! I’m about half-way through and can’t imagine it not being among my favorite reads of the year!
  • *** The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World by: Melinda Gates (Flatiron) – On Shelves: April 23, 2019
    • Full review to come tomorrow on its Publishing Day!
  • Piecing Me Together by: Renée Watson (Bloomsbury) – Pub Date: February 14, 2017
    • My daughter and I are still making it through this one. We are both enjoying it very much, but the end-of-the-school year always keeps us running more than usual. We’re hoping to get some reading in time this week to get it finished!

Likely to Read Next:

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  • *** The Farm by: Joanne Ramos (Random House) – On Shelves: May 7, 2019
    • Women who are in desperate need of money go to the farm and become surrogate mothers. That’s about all I know about this novel, but I’m intrigued. With Handmaid’s Tale (which I LOVED) vibes, I’m hoping this is a good one!
  • *** Juliet the Maniac: A Novel by: Juliet Escoria (Melville House) – On Shelves: May 7, 2019
    • Again, I don’t know much, but Tyler Goodson gave it four stars and that’s enough for me to give it a shot! With themes of teenage mental illness, I’m interested in what this book has to offer!
  • Sissy: A Coming-of-Gender Story by: Jacob Tobia (Putnam) – Pub Date: March 5, 2019
    • First of all, this is a case of “The Cover Made Me Do It”…it’s incredible! But beyond that superficial aspect, I’m excited to read this emotional memoir about a “boy” that has fought gender stereotypes. I admire people that revolutionize our way of thinking and I believe Jacob Tobia will rock my world! 

Tell me, friends, what’s been your favorite reads lately?

My 2 Weeks in Books (4/15/19)

(#partner #freebooks: All books noted by asterisks (***) indicate I received the book for free from the publisher, the author, or another promotional company to review. All opinions are my own.)

I intended to post last week from Arizona but it was just complicated without my laptop (I only took my iPad), so I decided to let it go…and do two weeks instead! So brace yourselves, this one is going to be jam-packed! Not only was I on vacation, but we came home to #bombcycloneparttwo, so I’ve had lots of reading time!

Last 2 Week’s Reads:

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  • 🎧 Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower by: Brittney Cooper (St. Martin’s Press) – Pub Date: February 20, 2019 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
    • Dr. Brittney Cooper may not have written this book with me (a privileged white woman) in mind, but these essays taught me so much and broadened my perspectives in ways I’ve been craving for awhile now. I’ve wanted to read some well-written work from some #ownvoices and this book was more than I hoped for. Though I listened to this on audiobook (Cooper reads it herself and it’s beyond powerful), I will pick up a hard copy at some point; it’s relevant and quotable and should be #requiredreading for everyone. Eloquent Rage forced me to confront my beliefs and it will stick with me for a long time. If you haven’t read it yet, please add it to your TBR and read it soon! Every person should!
  • *** 📖 Lost Roses by: Martha Hall Kelly (Ballantine) – Pub Date: April 9, 2019 ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫
    • Despite not falling in love with this one quite like I did LILAC GIRLS, it’s still a solid read. Following three women – Eliza, Sofya, and Varinka – during the First World War, the character development is good and I found myself rooting for each of them. As a story, I think this one holds up well, but as a historical fiction novel, I found it lacking. There were references to the Russian upheaval that happened, but I wanted more. There are so few historical fiction novels about WWI, and I was really hoping this one would give me a better understanding of what was going on in the world, both politically and economically. I left this book with little understanding of why the war happened. It’s a fantastic story, I just had higher expectations of learning about WWI.
  • *** 📖 When We Left Cuba by: Chanel Cleeton (Berkley) – Pub Date: April 9, 2019 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
    • After reading Cleeton’s first book, NEXT YEAR IN HAVANA (my review here), I had very high expectations for this one. I loved the political background I gained in Havana and fell in love with Cleeton’s writing style. It’s lyrical and poetic, making you feel like a participant in the story rather than a reader. Cuba came alive in that novel and all I’ve wanted to do since reading it is walk the Malecón and see the sights for myself. I don’t know if the disconnect with this book was due to it being primarily set in America – somewhere I’m more familiar with – or the storyline, but this story wasn’t nearly as strong for me. (That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it though, just not as much as Havana.) The writing is still strong – Cleeton has a gift for crafting a story that immediately sucks you in. However, I kept waiting for something to happen that somehow just felt elusive throughout the novel, like it was just waiting on the next page, but then it never appeared. I felt like the political events were glossed over in a way I didn’t feel in Havana. The story could have been just as rich with all the political happenings that occurred during that time period, so this felt like a huge missed opportunity. I think I would have loved this novel if I didn’t have Havana to compare it to. Also, for those who’ve asked, I absolutely think this novel can stand alone. There’s enough background information provided from the previous book that you won’t be lost at all! As I’ve mentioned already, this is still a strong novel, but having had the Havana experience previously, I simply prefer that one over this one. I’ll be curious to see other reviews and if I’m alone on this assessment, so if you’ve read it, let me know!
  • 🎧/📖 Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by: Cheryl Strayd (Vintage) – Pub Date: July 10, 2012 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
    • When I was on Sarah’s Book Shelves podcast a couple months ago, I mentioned that one of my reading goals was to try to get into audiobooks more. She recommended TINY BEAUTIFUL THINGS and said it’s one of her favorites…and I’d have to agree! Silly me, I didn’t realize that the podcast, Dear Sugars, was what this book was about…I have listened to that podcast for awhile and I LOVE IT! Within a few minutes of listening to this book, I ordered the hard copy where it will live on my favorites shelf forever. I will be buying copies of this book to hand out to my friends…yes, it’s that good! Strayd’s advice is relevant to all and I think everyone can find nuggets of truth relative to their own situations in each of the letters Strayd answers. I’m sure my copy will be highlighted and underlined and perused many times for years to come!
  • 📖 I Miss You When I Blink: Essays by: Mary Laura Philpott (Atria) – Pub Date: April 2, 2019 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
    • This one reminded me of TELL ME MORE by Kelly Corrigan – one of my favorite books from last year. Philpott speaks honestly about being satisfied with a life that has given her everything she’s ever wanted – a thought that, at first glance, seems ridiculous, but a sentiment I relate to very strongly. With kids passed the toddler/early childhood stage, I found many of her stories relatable. Truly, at times, I felt like I was sitting across from one of my best friends, drinking a glass of wine and discussing marriage, motherhood, and stay-at-home-momming with an honesty and realness you only find with someone you’ve shared a whole lot of life’s ups and downs with. Also, there are moments of pure hilarity as I actually lol’d many times while reading on the plane home from vacation! This book is a gem and I every mother needs this one on their home’s bookshelves!
  • *** 📖 The Parrot’s Perch by: Karen Keilt (She Writes Press) – On Shelves: April 16, 2019 ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫
    • What an insanely intense book this is! Thrown in Brazilian jail for an unknown crime, Keilt and her husband endured forty-five days of torture, rape, and humiliation. Even though this book was a page turner, there were many times I had to take a break from it because Keilt’s writing made it feel all too real. This book is definitely not for the faint of heart, but it’s an incredible insight into the corruption within the Brazilian law enforcement and an on-going investigation into the human rights violations the country apparently participates in quite regularly. There is strength and resiliency within these pages, and ultimately, some hope along with tragedy. How something this absurd could happen is terrifying. I admire Keilt’s courage and perseverance. Trigger warnings: torture, rape, kidnapping, false imprisonment, abuse. 
  • *** 📖 Good Talk: A Memoir in Conversations by: Mira Jacob (One World) – Pub Date: March 26, 2019 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
    • Everybody needs to read this book! This is a graphic memoir of conversations with a six-year-old that will leave you mind-blown. Touching on race, immigration, and the current US political situation, Jacob incredibly packs a ton into a small amount of space. I felt gut-punched by the end and had to spend some time unpacking what I’d just read. It’s incredibly powerful and I know this will be a book I return to over and over again.

Currently Reading/Listening:

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  • *** 📖 The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World by: Melinda Gates (Flatiron) – On Shelves: April 23, 2019
    • I’m a few chapters into this book and already completely blown away! I’m inspired and I can’t stop thinking about the social actions necessary that Gates writes about. If you’re looking for a book that honors the role women play in society and fights to help them gain empowerment, this book is a must read! I have a GIVEAWAY happening right now for an ARC of this book over on my Instagram page (@happiestwhenreading)…head over and get yourself entered!
  • 🎧 Life Will Be the Death of Me:…and You Too! by: Chelsea Handler (Spiegel & Grau) – Pub Date: April 9, 2019
    • I’m an hour into the audiobook of this and cannot stop listening. This is Chelsea Handler like we’ve never seen her before – raw, honest, and vulnerable. There’s a lot of truth bombs in here (which is a downside of listening to it on audio), but I’d highly recommend listening to this one. Handler narrates herself and she is incredible – at times, she gets choked up and it humanizes her in a way that breaks down the comedic barrier I’m so used to her having. I have a feeling this will be one of my favorites books of the year!
  • *** 📖 The Bride Test (The Kiss Quotient, #2) by: Helen Hoang (Berkley) – On Shelves: May 7, 2019
    • I LOVED The Kiss Quotient last year so of course I had to continue on with the series…though don’t make the same mistake I made – this is NOT a continuation of Stella and Michael’s story! I’m only about 20% in but it looks as if Hoang has created another quirky love story!
  • 📖 Piecing Me Together by: Renée Watson (Bloomsbury) – Pub Date: February 14, 2017
    • The latest book my daughter and I are reading together. We’re not too far into it but we’re both enjoying it!

I Tried, But Wasn’t Feeling (aka: DNF):

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  • 📖 It’s OK That You’re Not OK: Meeting Grief and Loss in a Culture That Doesn’t Understand by: Megan Devine (Sounds True) – Pub Date: January 1, 2018
    • DNF @ 15% – I love a book about grief. After losing my mama to cancer, I seek them out and almost always find something relatable in them. But this book felt repetitious of other books I’ve read previously. Maybe I’m further along in my grief journey so this one didn’t quite speak to me, but I made the decision to stop reading.
  • 📖 Warlight by: Michael Ondaatje (Knopf) – Pub Date: May 8, 2018
    • DNF @ 30% – As one of my most anticipated reads from last year, I was a little let down by this one. I think I could really enjoy it had it been at a different point of my reading life. It’s had strong reviews so I’m sure it’s just a matter of timing for me.
  • 🎧 White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by: Robin DiAngelo (Beacon Press) – Pub Date: June 26, 2018
    • I DNFd this one FOR NOW…I will pick this one back up as soon as I can get my hands on a hard copy. This one is too important and too intense for me to be able to focus on it through audiobook. What I heard is convicting and good, and I want to be able to devote more attention to it!

Likely to Read Next:

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  • Miracle Creek by: Angie Kim (Sarah Crichton Books) – On Shelves: April 16, 2019
    • I’m hearing the best things about this book! I chose it as one of my Book of the Month selections (here’s my referral link) and I don’t think I can hold off reading it much longer!
  • Normal People by: Sally Rooney (Hogarth) – On Shelves: April 16, 2019
    • Another BOTM book full of hype and recommended by some of my trusted sources. Sounds like it’ll break your heart – an element I love in a book!
  • The Ash Family by: Molly Dektar (Simon & Schuster) – Pub Date: April 9, 2019
    • I’m cautiously curious about this one. Cults? Off-the-grid living? I’m intrigued…but after seeing mixed reviews, I won’t be afraid to DNF if it’s not working for me.

Tell me, friends, what’s been your favorite reads lately?

 

 

 

My Week in Books (4/3/19)

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(#partner #freebooks: All books noted by asterisks (***) indicate I received the book for free from the publisher, the author, or another promotional company to review. All opinions are my own.)

I turned 40 last week and I don’t think I’ve ever felt so special as I did this year. My uncle threw an impromptu surprise party for me and my family showered me with love. I can’t wait for my next opportunity to show them how much I love them back!

We’re off to Phoenix for the week and I couldn’t be more excited about the sunshine, cacti, and warm weather! I’m doing something new and limiting myself to only ONE physical book – the rest of my reads will be off my Kindle because a.) I have a ton of ARCs on there I need to get to, b.) I’m excited for the opportunity to read some of the books already downloaded on there that I just haven’t gotten to, and c.) I’m too lazy to lug too many books around! While the pictures of my books may not be as pretty, I’ve found the place where it’s not more important than having shoulder pain! 🤷🏼‍♀️

Last Week’s Reads:

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  • *** In Another Time by: Jillian Cantor (Harper Perennial) – Pub Date: March 5, 2019
    • Everything about this book sounds like something I’d really enjoy. But sadly, I didn’t.  While I adored Max and found him to be so sweet and caring towards Hannah, I found Hannah to be wholly unlikeable. She was distracted and whiny; oftentimes, rude and ungrateful towards Max. I had a hard time understanding how she could be so oblivious to the situation Germany was in. Jews were being shipped away and yet she still insisted she and Max continued on the way they were. I wished Max would have been more forceful with her to make her wake up and realize that he had both of their best interests in mind. Also, there’s an element of time travel in the storyline that didn’t work for me at all. It felt forced and I couldn’t relate. Personally, I didn’t think it really added to the story either. I think I’m somewhat of an outlier with my opinions of this book because I’ve seen many reviews online from people that really enjoyed it! Search out some other opinions before making a final choice.
  • *** If, Then by: Kate Hope Day (Random House) – Pub Date: March 12, 2019
    • Don’t you wish covers would be an indication of a good book? Like, if the cover is beautiful and gorgeous, the book will land among your favorites. Bad cover? Terrible book. Wouldn’t that make things easier? In all seriousness, I LOVE the cover of this book, but I didn’t love the story. I found it disjointed and confusing, uninteresting and bland. I did appreciate the volcano in the story and it seemed like its own character. What’s frustrating about that is that it had better character development than all the other characters in the story! I could appreciate the premise of the story, but it just felt like way too much was going on. With a big cast of characters who each had their own issues, there was no connection. It quite literally felt like five different stories that tried to be one. Unfortunately, this one just did not work for me.
  • Beautiful Bad by: Annie Ward (Park Row) – Pub Date: March 5, 2019
    • I’ve finally found the niche of mystery/thrillers that I enjoy: psychological thrillers! I read The Silent Patient last month and loved it; I felt the same about this book. I found the ending a bit predictable and rushed, but it didn’t detract from the overall story for me. I liked the characters and their motivations, I liked the interplay between them all, and I liked the conclusion. I traded between the physical book and the audio version and I liked them both a lot! It was a great way to get a lot of housework accomplished, so this book was pure guiltless reading!
  • *** #IMomSoHard by: Kristin Hensley & Jen Smedley (HarperOne) – Pub Date: April 2, 2019
    • This one made me LOL – and that’s saying something because most books tagged as “humor” mostly make me roll my eyes! Hensley and Smedley are funny and they wrote about things I’ve been thinking since I started this motherhood journey. I haven’t seen these gals YouTube page, but I’m thinking I’m about to dive down that rabbit hole! (Here’s a great episode where they’re talking about their book…turns out they’re even funnier “in person”! These gals are from Nebraska which is my state neighbor and I feel like we are long-lost soul sisters. What I wouldn’t give to hang out with these two sometime (if you’re reading this….please! I swear, I’m not psycho!) … (Ok…and a few more because rabbit hole: I Make-Up So Hard and I Junk Food So Hard…#yourewelcome!)

I Tried, But Wasn’t Feeling (aka: DNF):

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  • *** The Mastermind: Drugs, Murder, Betrayal by: Evan Ratliff (Random House) – Pub Date: January 29, 2019 (DNF @ 10%)
    • I desperately wanted to follow in Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup‘s footsteps (my review here), but I just couldn’t get into this one. I think some people will really be able to get on board with it, but I was getting way too confused and bored trying to keep this story straight. I’m gonna hand this one off to my father-in-law though because I think he’ll really enjoy it!
  • *** We Cast A Shadow by: Maurice Carlos Ruffin (One World) – Pub Date: January 29, 2019 (DNF @ 24%)
    • One of the books I was most excited about this winter, but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t grasp the writing style. This may be the first book I’ve read that’s satirical and I’m wondering if that’s my problem. I’m going to stick this one back on my shelves and search out a few more reviews before completely giving up on it, but for now, it’s just not for me.
  • That Time I Loved You: Stories by: Carrianne Leung (Liveright) – Pub Date: February 26, 2019 (DNF @ 44%)
    • I got about halfway through this one and just felt meh about it. I’ve made a deal with myself that if I find myself just not caring about a book/story line anymore, I would DNF it. There are just too many books on my TBR list that I’m excited about and I’m not going to force my reading anymore. This was sent to me as part of my Shelf Subscription from The Bookshelf.

Currently Reading/Listening:

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  • Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower by: Brittney Cooper (St. Martin’s Press) – Pub Date: February 20, 2018
    • I’m only about twenty minutes into this one, and I am hooked! So many things have already opened up my mind and I can’t wait to continue this one and see where it leads me! I can already tell that this should be required reading for all Americans…especially white ones!

Likely to Read Next:

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  • *** When We Left Cuba by: Chanel Cleeton (Berkley) – On Shelves: April 9, 2019
    • Well, what can I say? I’ve been waiting to read this one since I got approved on NetGalley, but I really wanted to wait until I was closer to the release date. The time has finally arrived and I can’t wait to dive into this one!!
  • *** Lost Roses by: Martha Hall Kelly (Ballantine) – On Shelves: April 9, 2019
    • I loved Kelly’s first novel so I’m excited to read this next one!

Tell me, friends, what’s been your favorite reads lately?

April 2019 TBR

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(#partner #freebooks: All books noted by asterisks (***) indicate I received the book for free from the publisher, the author, or another promotional company to review. All opinions are my own.)

I never stick to my TBR, but these are the books on my April radar that I’m looking forward to!

It’ll be interesting to see how close I stick to this list. What’s on your TBR for April?

 

 

 

March 2019 Reading Wrap-Up

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(#partner #freebooks: All books noted by asterisks (***) indicate I received the book for free from the publisher, the author, or another promotional company to review. All opinions are my own.)

The crazy weather of March allowed for a lot of book reading time. I’ve gotta say: since I’ve gotten better at paying attention to my source recommendations (s/o Sarah’s Book Shelves, Basicbsguide, Reading n Running, and Novel Visits), my reading life has improved so much. I’m getting better at not following the hype on EVERY.SINGLE.BOOK and sometimes just sitting back and seeing what more people say about it.

Below is my March reads…click on the links for my full reviews!

  • *** The Island of Sea Women by: Lisa See (Scribner) – Pub Date: March 5, 2019
    • A perfect choice for the historical fiction reader that needs a break from the WWII/Nazi theme. Set in Korea during the WWII time period, this book is a fascinating glimpse into real-life “mermaids” – the haenyeo. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  • A Woman Is No Man by: Etaf Rum (Haper) – Pub Date: March 5, 2019
    • A book I can’t stop thinking about since I finished the last page! Powerful, hard-to-read at times, and so thought-provoking. The last 50ish pages were some of the most beautiful words I’ve ever written about a mother’s commitment to her children, come what may. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫
  • *** A People’s History of Heaven by: Mathangi Subramanian (Algonquin) – Pub Date: March 19, 2019
    • Another book I can’t stop thinking about. Heaven is a slum in Bangladore. And despite the difficulties of living in extreme poverty, these characters left me with such a sense of hope. The friendship theme is strong in this book and I just thought it was so gorgeously done. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  • *** Daisy Jones and The Six by: Taylor Jenkins Reid (Ballantine) – Pub Date: March 5, 2019
    • I have yet to read a TJR book that left me disappointed. All done so differently, they are each uniquely written, but I think this one takes the cake! Told in interview (script) format, I couldn’t get enough of this book. At times, I questioned that it wasn’t written about an actual band. The only regret I have with this one is that I might have enjoyed listening to the audio about this one. I’ve heard it’s phenomenal! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  • *** The Things We Cannot Say by: Kelly Rimmer (Graydon House) – Pub Date: March 19, 2019
    • Sadly, this one fell flat for me. I think it was more my issues than the book itself though because I’ve seen rave reviews. I honestly think I’m burned out on WWII historical fiction right now and am craving a break. All of that to say: don’t let my opinion on this one sway you. Search out some other reviews to make your final decision! ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫
  • Queenie by: Candice Carty-Williams (Scout Press) – Pub Date: March 19, 2019
    • This one started out so poorly for me, but finished so strong! I was frustrated with Queenie in so many ways, but as the book progressed, I came to love her so much. I have continued to think about this book on and off and I think Queenie will become a beloved character to me. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  • *** A Grip of Time by: Lauren Kessler (Red Lightning Books) – On Shelves: May 1, 2019
    • It was a spur-of-the-moment decision to pick this one up and I’m glad I did. As someone who loves books about writing, I especially loved how Kessler wanted to start a writing group in a prison to learn about the inmates lives and to help them work through personal issues at the same time. Kessler also included some convincing facts and figures regarding the American prisons and its prisoners. Lots of food for thought in this one! This one isn’t on shelves until May 1, 2019, but be sure to put it on your list! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  • Next Year in Havana by: Chanel Cleeton (Berkley) – Pub Date: February 6, 2018
    • Rereading this one was like visiting an old friend. I loved it it last year (it was one of my favorite books of 2018), and the second time around did not disappoint. Full of Cuban history and politics, this book is smart while also entertaining with the present-day timeline. The second book by Cleeton is out in April and I cannot wait! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  • Five Feet Apart by: Rachel Lippincott (Simon and Schuster for Young Readers) – Pub Date: November 20, 2018
    • With a movie adaptation just released, I wanted to read this one (I generally prefer the book vs the movie). I really didn’t know much about cycstic fibrosis before reading this so I appreciated gaining more of an insight into this disease. I liked the characters too, and overall, I thought this book was fine. My 11-year-old and I read this one together and both really enjoyed it! (There were some mature themes, so I’m glad I was able to censor some of that out!) ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫
  • Dear Martin by: Nic Stone (Ember) – Pub Date: October 17, 2017
    • A small book (just barely over 200 pages), but it packs a huge punch. In response to so many young Black (unarmed) men being gunned down by law enforcement in recent news, Stone delivers a book that addresses the subtle racism that is so present in today’s world. Eye-opening, revealing, and honest, this is a must read for everyone! ⭐️⭐️⭐️
  • The Other Americans by: Laila Lalami (Pantheon) – Pub Date: March 26, 2019
    • Roxane Gay gave this one five stars so I’m not sure how much convincing one would need to read this one. I’m no Roxane Gay, but I whole-heartedly agree with her. This was such a good book! Insights into the characters’ lives (and there are lots of them, but don’t be scared because it’s not confusing at all!) are revealed in layers over time. I loved Lalami’s writing and I couldn’t put this book down! (Read my full review here!) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  • Renegade Women in Film and TV by: Elizabeth Weitzman (Clarkson Potter) – Pub Date: February 5, 2019
    • My daughter and I read this one together. We loved the illustrations – they’re gorgeous – and we enjoyed learning about the women trailblazers – both past and present – in the film and tv industry. This was a perfect book to read in Women’s History Month! ⭐️⭐️⭐️
  • In Another Time by: Jillian Cantor (Harper Perennial) – Pub Date: March 5, 2019
    • It seems like most of #bookstagram is loving this one! I’ll have my full review up on Monday, April 1st as part of the Get Red PR campaign! ⭐️⭐️⭐️
  • 🎧 Cherry by: Nico Walker (Knopf) – Pub Date: August 14, 2018
    • This one took me awhile to get through because, at first, it enthralled me. I couldn’t get enough of it (and my housework thanks this book for it), but as it moved on, it lost its steam for me. Apparently this book is a semi-autobiographical novel about the author. He went to war in Iraq and when he returns, he suffers from PTSD and has a heroine addiction. He turns to bank robbery to fuel his habit. At times, I was a little shocked at the vulgarity of it, but I also understand that the topic warrants that kind of grit and honesty. I think there’s something to hearing that kind of blatant talk vs reading it, so I’m sure that was part of the issue. Overall, I LOVED the narrator, Jeremy Bobb, and he deserves 5-stars alone for his performance! He was incredible and I appreciated his gravely voice so much; if not for his performance, I may have DNF’d this one. ⭐️⭐️⭐️
  • If, Then by: Kate Hope Day (Random House) – Pub Date: March 12, 2019
    • Don’t you wish covers would be an indication of a good book? Like, if the cover is beautiful and gorgeous, the book will land among your favorites. Bad cover? Terrible book. Wouldn’t that make things easier? In all seriousness, I LOVE the cover of this book, but I didn’t love the story. I found it disjointed and confusing, uninteresting and bland. I did appreciate the volcano in the story and it seemed like its own character. What’s frustrating about that is that it had better character development than all the other characters in the story! I could appreciate the premise of the story, but it just felt like way too much was going on. With a big cast of characters who each had their own issues, there was no connection. It quite literally felt like five different stories that tried to be one. Unfortunately, this one just did not work for me. ⭐️⭐️⭐️
  • Beautiful Bad by: Annie Ward (Park Row) – Pub Date: March 5, 2019
    • I really enjoyed this book! While a little predictable towards the end, it didn’t detract from the story. Maddie’s adventures with Jo in war-torn countries, Ian’s alcoholism and PTSD issues, Jo and Ian’s hatred for each other – all combined to create an intense roller coaster ride! I’ve found my mystery/thriller niche and its psychological thrillers. I love the mind mends and the well-developed plot lines that seem to be a little more present than in #whodunit stories. I switched off and on between reading and listening to this one and it was awesome! I enjoyed the audio version (though I’m confused why Ian sounded Irish instead of British 🤷🏼‍♀️🤷🏼‍♀️🤷🏼‍♀️), and mostly I was just so excited with the amount of housework, laundry, exercise I could get done while staying in the same story! I’m going to continue to seek out audiobooks of books I have on my shelf in order to increase my productivity!

DNF:

  • *** The Mastermind: Drugs, Murder, Betrayal by: Evan Ratliff (Random House) – Pub Date: January 29, 2019 (DNF @ 10%)
    • I desperately wanted to follow in Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup‘s footsteps (my review here), but I just couldn’t get into this one. I think some people will really be able to get on board with it, but I was getting way too confused and bored trying to keep this story straight. I’m gonna hand this one off to my father-in-law though because I think he’ll really enjoy it!
  • *** We Cast A Shadow by: Maurice Carlos Ruffin (One World) – Pub Date: January 29, 2019 (DNF @ 24%)
    • One of the books I was most excited about this winter, but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t grasp the writing style. This may be the first book I’ve read that’s satirical and I’m wondering if that’s my problem. I’m going to stick this one back on my shelves and search out a few more reviews before completely giving up on it, but for now, it’s just not for me. 
  • That Time I Loved You by: Carrianne Leung (Liveright) – Pub Date: March 27, 2019
    • I’m so bummed about this one because it was a #ShelfSubscription book from The Bookshelf in Thomasville, Georgia. I read over half of it and it was just fine. I’ve made a deal with myself that when I stop caring about reading a book, I’m going to stop. I have way too many I want to read to spend time wasting time…so I stopped! It just felt like nothing happened and I just stopped caring.

It’s going to be hard to name just one book as my favorite book of March because I actually loved several. I suppose DAISY JONES AND THE SIX would be my favorite if I had to name one, but I also really adore A PEOPLE’S HISTORY OF HEAVEN, A WOMAN IS NO MAN, QUEENIE, and THE OTHER AMERICANS, and BEAUTIFUL BAD.

What was your favorite read of March?

The Other Americans

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Thank you to the publisher, Pantheon via First to Read (Penguin), for the free digital copy to review. All opinions are my own!

Before I get to my review, I want to take a second to let you know of a few upcoming changes to my posting schedule. I recently realized I can have some BIG reading months, and instead of bombarding you with EACH BOOK’s review, it’d be best to just make my ‘My Week in Books’ reviews a little more detailed. Honestly, it feels a little repetitive and unnecessary, and mostly, I don’t want to fill your inbox so much that you unfollow me because it’s too much! So start looking for slightly more detailed reviews in the weekly recap! You can follow my #bookstagram account, @happiestwhenreading, where I will continue to post every book that I read with a #minibookreview.

Now, onto my review of The Other Americans, which is on shelves today!

I haven’t previously read any of Lalami’s work (The Moor’s Account), but I fell in love with this book quickly and easily. The writing was captivating to me and I loved the interplay that all the characters had to each other. It’s an interesting concept to me to realize that, though we may not ‘know’ each other in day-to-day lives, sometimes we have a greater connection to each other that’s boiling, unbeknownst to us, just below the surface. That one’s individual motivations and desires, wants and needs propel us into a world that may be affected collectively by those individual choices. I love the idea of this connectivity even when we’re not aware of it.

At the heart of The Other Americans, we’re trying to figure out how Driss, a Moroccan immigrant, was killed. Was it an accident or a hit-and-run? From there, Lalami introduces us to a wide cast of characters and throughout the book, they each give their personal account of what happened up to, and past, the accident. It sounds confusing, but it’s definitely not because Lalami accomplishes this flawlessly. The stories all flowed together to tell a greater picture about the subtle racism that Muslims continue to face in our society, about grief and how to move forward with your life when you lost such an important person in your life, and new love and the challenges that come with giving yourself to someone else.

I loved this dramatic book and it gave me a lot to think about. It’s complicated and realistic – just like life. We face our own thoughts and ideas and see how those play out around the people around us. It’s interesting and so thought-provoking.

 

 

My Week in Books (3/25/19)

 

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(#partner #freebooks: All books noted by asterisks (***) indicate I received the book for free from the publisher, the author, or another promotional company to review. All opinions are my own.)

We started Spring Break last week, but we have a family vacation planned for April so we’re not doing anything. I mean, why would we go when the kids don’t have school!?!? 🤷🏼‍♀️ Anyway, the weather is turning spring-like with rainy days and warmer temperatures. Spring is my favorite time of year so I’m loving it!

Last Week’s Reads:

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  • *** A Grip of Time by: Lauren Kessler (Red Lightning Books) Pub Date: May 1, 2019
    • I wasn’t sure what I was getting into with this one, but I was pleasantly surprised. Investigative journalism can sometimes feel dry and boring, but Kessler brought such humanity to the topic of prison reformation. I really enjoyed this book; mostly, hearing from the prisoners themselves. (Read my full review here.)
  • Next Year in Havana by: Chanel Cleeton (Berkley) – Pub Date: February 6, 2018
    • I read this one last year and it was one of my favorite books of the year! In preparation of Cleeton’s next book, When We Left Cuba, I thought it would be a good time to reread this one. It was just as good as the first time! (Read my full review here.)
  • Five Feet Apart by: Rachel Lippincott (Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers) – Pub Date: November 20, 2018)
    • My daughter and I read this one as a read-aloud and we both loved it. There were some mature themes (boyfriend/girlfriend, kissing, sexual body references) that I skipped over so I’m glad we read this one together. It was a great story and we’re excited to check out the movie coming out soon! (Read my full review here.)
  • Dear Martin by: Nic Stone (Ember) – Pub Date: September 4, 2018
    • A small book (just barely over 200 pages), but it packs a huge punch. In response to so many young Black (unarmed) men being gunned down by law enforcement in recent news, Stone delivers a book that addresses the subtle racism that is so present in today’s world. Eye-opening, revealing, and honest, this is a must read for everyone! (Read my full review here.)
  • *** The Other Americans by: Laila Lalami (Pantheon) – Pub Date: March 26, 2019
    • An immigrant from Morocco is killed in a hit-and-run accident. From there, each chapter is a new person’s perspective – the daughter, the wife, an old high school friend of the daughter, the investigative cop, and even the dead man – on what was happening leading up to, and then past, the accident. I loved the writing of this one and will have a full review up tomorrow (on its Pub Day)!
  • *** Renegade Women in Film and TV by: Elizabeth Weitzman (Clarkson Potter) – Pub Date: February 5, 2019
    • A quick and fun book about women trailblazers – both past and present – in the film and television industry! A great book to have read during Women’s History Month, too!
  • *** In Another Time by: Jill Cantor (Harper Perennial) – Pub Date: March 5, 2018
    • When Hannah wakes up in a field clutching her beloved violin, she has no idea how she got here or what’s happened the last ten years of her life. During that time lapse, WWII has happened and the world is very different than the last memory she has. While I loved the fresh perspective of this one, there were some problematic things for me. I will dive deeper into this one with a full review next Monday! 
  • *** 🎧 Cherry by: Nico Walker (Knopf) – Pub Date: August 14, 2018
    • Suzie’s (from the Tattered Cover) recommendation made me get this one immediately! I LOVED the narrator, Jeremy Bobb, and he deserves a 5-star rating alone. As a semi-autobiographical novel written by Nico Walker from his prison cell, this one is interesting, to say the least. Gritty, raw, and vulgar, it’s definitely not for everyone. I’ll have a full review in the next week!

Currently Reading/Listening:

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Likely to Read Next:

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  • *** #IMomSoHard by: Kristin Hensley & Jen Smedley (HarperOne) – Pub Date: April 2, 2019
    • I have a feeling this one is going to be hugely funny…or a huge flop. Humor can be hard, but I’m hoping it’s just the light read I’m currently craving!
  • *** When We Left Cuba by: Chanel Cleeton (Berkley) – On Shelves: April 9, 2019
    • Well, what can I say? I’ve been waiting to read this one since I got approved on NetGalley, but I really wanted to wait until I was closer to the release date. The time has finally arrived and I can’t wait to dive into this one!!
  • My Sister, the Serial Killer by: Oyinkan Braithwaite (Doubleday) – Pub Date: November 20, 2018)
    • I have yet to see a bad review on this one! Everyone seems to love it and I’m in the mood for something unique!

 

Tell me, friends, what’s been your favorite reads lately?